Digital Exhibitions

Who: Oral Histories for the Columbia Avenue Riots

In spring 2011, Temple University Libraries Special Collections began conducting interviews about both the desegregation of Girard College and the 1964 Columbia Avenue riots, as well as Philadelphia's civil rights movement more generally.  Interviews are ongoing and new materials, including audio and transcripts of each interview, will be added periodically.

Digital Facsimile

Baxter, Augustus

Augustus Baxter (b. December 25, 1928) worked as a "gang worker" in North Philadelphia counseling at-risk youth during the 1950s and 1960s.  Mr. Baxter discusses living conditions in North Philadelphia before the 1964 [[Columbia Avenue|1142]] riots and the complex relationships between the area's residents, business-owners, landlords, and police.  Mr. Baxter also shares his memories of such notable civil rights leaders as [[Raymond Pace Alexander|1138]], [[Cecil B. Moore|1140]], Georgie Woods, and Stanley Branche, as well as his reflections on race relations and the civil rights movement.

Interview conducted on June 2, 2011 by Dr. Diane Turner, Curator, Charles L. Blockson Collection.
View transcript for this interview

 Listen to the Augustus Baxter Interview:

 

 

Digital Facsimile

Dorn, Mel

Mel Dorn (b. January 5, 1945) grew up on [[Columbia Avenue|1142]] and lived in North Philadelphia during the 1964 race riots.  Mr. Dorn discusses the difficult economic conditions within the community and the tensions between residents and police that helped fuel the riots.  Mr. Dorn also details the racial discrimination he has faced and his participation in the NAACP protests at [[Girard College|1143]].

Interview conducted on May 11, 2011 by Dr. Diane Turner, Curator, Charles L. Blockson Collection. 
View transcript for this interview

 

Listen to the Mel Dorn Interview:

 

 

Digital Facsimile

Driver, R. Sonny

Richard "Sonny" Driver is the founder of Scoop magazine and lived in North Philadelphia during the 1964 [[Columbia Avenue|1142]] riots.  Mr. Driver reflects on race relations in North Philadelphia and shares his recollections of the riots, changes to the neighborhood, Philadelphia chapter NAACP President [[Cecil B. Moore|1140]], and then-deputy police commissioner Frank Rizzo.  Mr. Driver also discusses his memories of the Black Power movement and the NAACP protests at [[Girard College|1143]].  

Interview conducted on June 21, 2011 by Dr. Diane Turner, Curator, Charles L. Blockson Collection. 
View transcript for this interview

 Listen to the R. Sonny Driver Interview:

 

 

Digital Facsimile

Salaam, Dr. Kenneth A.

Dr. Kenneth A. Salaam (b. March 23, 1949), also known as "Freedom Smitty," was raised in North Philadelphia and was a member of the NAACP Youth Council under the leadership of [[Cecil B. Moore|1140]].  As a teenager, Dr. Salaam participated in the [[Columbia Avenue|1142]] riots and shares his recollections of the events, the Columbia Avenue neighborhood, and the relationship between residents and police.  Dr. Salaam also discusses his participation in the NAACP protests at [[Girard College|1143]] and his memories of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cecil B. Moore, Georgie Woods, and other prominent civil rights leaders.

Interview conducted on May 9, 2011 by Dr. Diane Turner, Curator, Charles L. Blockson Collection. 
View transcript for this interview

 Listen to the Dr. Kenneth A. Salaam Interview:

 

 

Digital Facsimile

Watson, Richard J.

Richard Watson (March 24, 1946- ), a North Carolina transplant, spent his formative years in North Philadelphia just a few blocks south of Columbia Avenue. Mr. Watson recalls his experiences living in the city at a time when neighborhood gangs were rampant. He presents his unique perspective as a young, black artist who managed to live within the community without succumbing to such pressures, while maintaining a level of acceptance. Mr. Watson witnessed the looting of stores along Columbia Avenue in the summer of 1964 and was involved with numerous activist organizations supportive of the cause to end segregation at Girard College. Mr. Watson speaks about his impressions of Cecil B. Moore as a civil rights leader and organizer in a community of people who according to Watson, had no "political acumen." He also discusses his interactions with other prominent figures in the civil rights movement in Philadelphia including radio personality Georgie Woods and Reverend Paul Washington.

Interview conducted on October 10, 2011 by Dr. Diane Turner, Curator, Charles L. Blockson Collection. 
View transcript for this interview

 

Listen to the Richard Watson Interview: